Should You Hire a Writing Coach? 7 Questions About Writing Coaches Answered

Writing Coach

Writing Coach

My short answer is yes.

When I wanted to get serious about writing I had a few marks against me: little formal training, dated experience, and few connections.

The advice online and in magazines was abundant and murky: join a writing group; just write and submit; find a mentor. Last I’d checked, our local Target did not have a large selection of critique circles or free mentors on the shelves.

Searching, I registered for a one-night class where our teacher’s credentials included published author and certified life coach.

Two weeks later, I still hadn’t written much and wondered if I’d ever feel like a “real” writer when I glanced over and saw the author’s card on a corner of my desk. I called and after a free consultation, signed up for my first session.

I’ve been attending weekly or bi-weekly sessions with my coach for the last year and the results are remarkable. But we’ll come back to that.

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Why Should You Consider Hiring a Coach?

Tiger Woods, NFL Quarterbacks, even Picasso all had personal teachers dedicated to their success.

“But writing is different. It’s art. It can’t be taught, you just have to do it.”

Writing is both art and craft. It’s also a goal, a pursuit, a vocation, a dream.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write or how to get started. I had no writing community and felt I didn’t have years to establish one. My goals have shifted many times throughout the past twelve months but I continue to see progress.

You sign your kids up for guitar lessons, hire batting coaches for your little leaguer, and may even treat yourself to a personal trainer. Why should your calling to write be any different? You deserve help in reaching your dreams if you feel you need it.

What Does a Coach Do and What Can You Expect?

Coaches are as varied as writers. There are book coaches who help you conceive of and shepherd a book to publication. There are writing coaches that act as tutors providing craft instruction and critiques of your work. Then there are more general coaches offering instruction, critiques, and a variety of goal setting and visioning tools to help guide your career.

I chose a Certified Life Coach who was a writing teacher and had extensive experience with the publishing world.

What Does a Typical Session Consist of?

First off, you should know that I almost always cry. I’m not sure if it’s with relief that I’m taking my own dreams seriously or gratitude that someone other than my supportive family believes in me. Thankfully, she does not charge extra for tissue.

Although writing is therapeutic, our sessions are not therapy. My coach, however, is a trained counselor which doesn’t hurt when dealing with the emotional task of writing from the heart.

Our weekly session starts with a centering and breathing exercise of which I was initially suspicious. This costs me money and I want to get better at writing, not hippie, woo woo stuff. I now look forward to this positive blessing of my writing life. I feel hope, determination and resolve settle over me.

Once centered, we discuss my results from last week, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and we set concrete goals for the upcoming week.  These may include word counts, submittals, time management, brainstorming, or big picture ideas.

We talk about managing the inner critic, coming up with new ideas, handling rejection, writing routines, family support, publications to query, dealing with negativity, etc.

I leave with a to-do list for the week and the wonderful feeling of investing in my dream. My coach believes in my ability and provides support and feedback via text, email, etc., outside of our regularly scheduled sessions.

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How Do You Tell if it’s Working?

We’ve all had the experience of a good fit; a teacher that seems to “get” your child’s personality; a hair dresser that knows one inch means just one inch; or a tax guy that helps you think out-of-the box with deductions.

Coaching is no different. Personality matters. Energy matters. Availability and pricing and credentials all matter.

But results are where it’s at. Here’s a few of the things I’ve achieved or experienced in one year that I’m convinced would have taken me longer on my own, or might not have happened at all:

  • Accepted as regular guest blogger at two websites including monthly posts, several published book reviews and author interviews including award winning novelists and NY Times Bestselling authors, published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, acceptance into Novel in a Year program at local studio, hired as correspondent for local newspaper, published flash fiction and personal essays, performed written piece for Live Lit event, selected to audition for Listen to Your Mother event
  • Encouraged establishment of a professional online presence including tips on: website, business cards, treating myself to headshots, social media accounts, blogging, etc.
  • Formulated a plan for conference/retreat/class attendance to improve my craft.
  • Instrumental in creating a working cover for my first novel (and convincing me it was a novel)
  • Established and tracked word count goals for WIP
  • Introductions to other writing professionals in our area including award winning authors, playwrights, screenwriters, etc.
  • Explanation of types of editing and assistance with recommendations and selection of editor for WIP
  • Access to well-established platform for advertising my proofreading and editing services resulting in paid assignments
  • Insight into what’s accepted/expected when pitching local editors resulting in several paid assignments and published clips
  • Assisted in arranging book signing for Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology
  • Invitation to participate in local author events as a speaker/presenter
  • Established a revision group, provides recommendations and insight on local classes
  • Sounding board for craft elements of projects in progress

Coaching has helped me keep my writing front and center all while traveling with a college athlete, working a full time job, and planning my daughter’s wedding.

How Much Does All This Cost?

If you search the internet you will find fees ranging from $100 to $150 per hour and an endless choice of “packages.” What’s important is your budget, comfort level, and your results. Trust your gut.

At a minimum, you should receive a free, no-pressure consultation and the flexibility to hold sessions in person, via skype, or by phone. Life gets hectic and flexibility is key. I prefer to pay as I go with no long-term commitment.

Don’t forget to check for certifications and references. The internet can tell you what certifying agencies are acceptable in your area.

What Do You Have to Lose?

If you’re stuck on a particular project or unsure how to get going at all, a free consultation could be the catalyst you need.

In my writing coach I have an advocate, a sympathetic ear, a well-established connection to the writing community, and an experienced publishing professional willing to provide guidance and critical feedback.

A reputable coach can be an invaluable resource. Mine asks tough questions and has challenged me to think bigger than I had the courage to do on my own.

Coaching might not be for everybody but I consider it time and money well-spent.

 Share Your Experience or Questions

Have you ever used a coach or considered it? Why or why not? Have you had a good or bad experience you can share?

 

 

 

3 Thoughts on “Should You Hire a Writing Coach? 7 Questions About Writing Coaches Answered

  1. Hi there! Any chance you could share with me who your writing coach is? She/he sounds like just what I’m looking for! angela@angelawatsonrobertson.com. Thanks! 🙂

8 Signs You Might Be in “The Dip” and How to Write it Out

Winter hike writing setbacks
Frustrated Writer

Photo by Don https://www.flickr.com/photos/fallingwater123/

I was stuck inside for the third day in a row, planning which blanket to cover up with before watching the seventh hour of The Voice. I scrolled through Facebook and read a post from a fellow writer offering hope to another writer in the doldrums.

“Poor thing,” I thought. That couldn’t be me because I’ve been on a straight path upward, no detours or setbacks. Since I got the guts to call myself a writer last spring at the non-ingénue age of 48 ½, my signs from the universe all confirmed that I’m not wasting my time on this whole writing thing.

I clicked on author Kristen Lamb’s blog post and recognized myself in the photo – a dark-haired writer with her face in her hands. The recognition called me to read on about the “span of suck” that is “The Dip” and how it might not be such a bad thing.

What are some signs this might be you?

  1. Everything’s been going your way and then it’s not.

This would be the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” scenario. I’d had a lot of mini-victories but then a few rejections came my way.

  1. You’re not actually writing.

I was back to talking about writing. Reading about writing. Not getting much writing done. A recent blog tour I’d signed up for ended and I didn’t have fresh material for my blog. Worse, I had no desire to create fresh material.

  1. You’re current project seems impossible to save.

The second draft of my WIP was under way but I suddenly became sure I didn’t have the talent or creativity to figure out plot issues, add interesting characters or finish it.

  1. You begin Fraud-Fretting.

Maybe it’s the alliteration but I loved this term. I was all of a sudden positive that having sold a few pieces, gotten a local byline in the paper, finished a first draft of a novel all added up to something other than being a writer. Maybe it meant I was a plumber?

  1. You withdraw socially from your writing peers.

Whether you’ve been connecting online or in person, all of a sudden, you don’t want to face the people who are really doing it. You begin wondering if cable will air old episodes of The Voice or American Idol which will help to take your mind off what you’re not accomplishing.

  1. You stop showing up.

You haven’t been at your desk in days. Your laptop is fully charged and you intend to conserve energy by not turning it on. You’re all thumbs so don’t even try to pick up a pen or pencil.

  1. You pray for the cold snap to continue so you can remain covered on the couch with a semi-plausible excuse.

Those talent shows are not going to watch themselves.

  1. Your hair has been in a greasy pony tail for days and you have food stains on your sweatshirt.

This could be more serious – rely on your family for indications.

How do you get out of it?

  1. Give yourself a break. Kindness works. Don’t berate yourself into a deeper dip.
  2. Set a time limit. “I will give myself 3 days to wallow,” etc.
  3. Hold a pen or pencil (do not point the sharp end at your heart) while watching The Voice or Idol.

    Winter hike writing setbacks

    Winter hike – Fresh air tonic for the writing blues.

  4. What have you been dying to write? If it’s not the WIP or that’s too scary to face, write something for fun. Send a raunchy email to your BFF gossiping about that horrible woman in your office.
  5. Call a mentor, coach, teacher so they can tell you how normal this is. Do not call your mother who will either tell you how beautiful you are (having not seen your greasy pony tail) or will give you the number of her friend that can get you a good job.
  6. Confess your doldrums to your best social media friends. Sit back and watch the inspiring quotes and memes roll in.
  7. Revisit what made you want to do this in the first place. Successes? Bylines? That poem that made your friends cry?
  8. Breathe. Move. Fill the well. Go to a movie. Dance to your favorite song. Have sex! Eat chocolate! Re-read your favorite book.

I tried all of the above. Not necessarily in order. Number four gave me the start of an essay I’d been holding inside. Yesterday, a trusted mentor confirmed that my fears were shared by “real” writers at all stages. Intellectually I knew this, emotionally I needed to hear it.

Staying in “the dip” isn’t an option. Nature doesn’t work like that. Setbacks become permanent only if you quit. Something better is coming. Will you be ready for it?

 

 

 

4 Thoughts on “8 Signs You Might Be in “The Dip” and How to Write it Out

  1. Kristen Lamb on March 3, 2015 at 10:18 am said:

    Thanks for the shout-out and this made me laugh. Love how you riffed with it. We ALL hit this place. Sometimes it’s just knowing it goes with the job that helps. It isn’t permanent.

    • Lovely of you to comment, Kristen! Really enjoyed your blog. Happy to say I was up and writing this morning. Thanks again for stopping by!

  2. barb armstrong on March 4, 2015 at 8:52 am said:

    Yes I am your Mom and I understand the doldrums dip, believe me! However, It would be a shame for you not to wallow a day or two and then continue on with your fabulous self because I am sure you give other people a lift most of the time. They really look to you to boost them up and cheer them on so snap out of it and get to work and always remember that I am sure you were put here to make the world a better place and you do!

    • Mother!! Hello and thanks for telling it like it is (or how you think it is :-)) I was hard at work this morning, so there! Love you!

The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour – Author Interview

Fia Essen

2K International Writer's Blog Tour

 

Have you been enjoying the tour? Feel free to pass on the links you find here to other readers or writers in your circle. These authors have a range of accomplishments along with insight and tips for writers of any genre!  Welcome and let’s meet Fia!

Fia Essen

Fia Essen – that’s me. I grew up on the move, and then I kept going. I still haven’t really settled down anywhere. I’m not ready to say I’ve settled. You could say I got lost in transition. But I’ve found some great people and places on my journey to… well, destination unknown. And my journey through life is what gives me ideas for the stories I write.  Fia Essen

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

I wrote a short story when I was nine years old. I had just started a new school in Dubai and I was still learning English. Predictably, the story was about the adventures of a girl from Sweden who had just moved to “The Desert of Arabia”.

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

The best thing about being a writer is being my own boss. It’s also the worst thing about being a writer. It’s not a “regular” 9-5 job, and I don’t get a regular paycheck. Nonetheless, I’m serious about my writing. Writing is my job and I give it my all.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

I can’t say I believe in writer’s block. Having said this, I can only speak from my own experience. As I mentioned above, writing is my job. I sit down and I do the work. Every day! I don’t expect inspiration to hit me out of the blue. I’m not that kind of writer. I don’t get struck by sudden flashes of brilliance. I work hard to create a story that I hope someone will ultimately enjoy reading.

What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

At the moment, I’m working on a novel called Ariel, which is about a woman who has lost control of her life and finds herself stuck in a rut. Currently, Ariel is being looked over by an editor. Personally, I think the editing process is one of the most challenging aspects of writing. It requires patience and an open mind. The thing to remember is that both you and your editor want the same thing – for your story to be the best it can be.

What supports you in your writing?

It’s not a what. It’s a who. Her name is Sanna, and she’s my mum.

What are you currently reading?

Blogs. I’ve recently started blogging myself and I’m having a wonderful time reading what other bloggers are writing. If you’re a writer or interested in writing, there are plenty of both established and aspiring writers that share tips and useful information on their blogs. Much appreciated!

Where can our readers find you and your books online?

You can find my 100 Word Blog at https://essenfia.wordpress.com/ . As soon as Ariel is released, I’ll write an overjoyed post about it. Meanwhile, I’d love it if you drop by and take a gander at my daily posts.

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Resting on a Laurel or What to do After Your Submission is Accepted

Sara's quote
Motivational Quote for Avoiding Writer's Block After Publishing Sara Connell Author

How to Avoid Writer’s Block After Publishing

What do you do when you have a success with your writing? Do you quickly move on to the next action step or do you sit and enjoy it? There’s something to be said for stopping to smell the roses – but not if you fall asleep wallowing in them. You’ll get pricked and bleed. It will be ugly. Trust me.

Last week, I got some exciting news that a story I submitted for a popular anthology was accepted. A PR firm contacted me and soon I had all kinds of attention-getting diversions!

I know my own shortcomings and confessed to a mentor that as I was posting the good news on Facebook, a part of me knew I’d waste endless hours basking in the “likes” and “shares” and “comments” surrounding my success. When would I write?

A certain amount of fear joined the excitement; fear that my biggest publishing success so far would be my last.

We made a plan to stay in action. Here’s a few things you can do if you find yourself with a “win” that threatens to deter you from a bigger goal.

3 Steps to Keep Your Success from Becoming Writer’s Block

1. Set aside a certain amount of time to pat yourself on the back via social media or other means.

2. Decide on a next step before you click “post.”

3. Next steps can include any of the following:

  • Deadline for new submission
  • Revision time on a work-in-progress (WIP)
  • Chapter read in a book on craft.

4. Use affirmations to remind yourself “That is not all the music that is in you.”

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Laura Munson: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat, Now What?

Haven Retreat Muse

Last September, I flew to Montana where I spent several days with total strangers at Walking Lightly Ranch in the gorgeous mountain valley of Whitefish. I left with friends and inspiration.  Laura Munson, Haven Host and New York Times Bestselling Author of This is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, shared my essay and those of other retreaters on her personal blog.  If you’ve thought of attending a retreat, hers is one of the best in the country! Find out why here. This isn’t so much an advertisement as it is an invitation to say “why not?” If you’ve dreamed of treating yourself or testing yourself or just spending time with yourself, don’t wait!

Haven Retreat Muse

Flowers from a fellow writer and our Muse

 

Haven retreat - lake view with benches

One of many gathering spots of Haven Retreat at Walking Lightly Ranch

 

Haven Retreat - Checking in

Beautiful Guest Rooms at Walking Lightly Ranch – Peace and quiet at Haven Retreat

 

Haven Retreat - Garden

Abundant gardens of Walking Lightly Ranch Provided Most of Our Food While at Haven Retreat

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